It’s possible to buy tripod legs and tripod heads as separate items. But it is usually more cost effective to choose them as a packaged kit.
In this article, we cover a range of tripod kits suitable for different birding situations. Here is a brief overview of what we will review in more depth later.
Quick comparison: best tripod kits for birding spotting scopes
Manfrotto 190X Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with XPRO Fluid Head
Versatile and easy-to-deploy tripod kit with an impressively smooth pan/tilt from its fluid head.
Best overall tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
Vanguard Alta 264AO tripod with Alta PH-31 pan head
A two-way pan head and easily packable four-section legs are two key features of this solid value-for-money choice from Vanguard.
Best value tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
Vortex Optics Radian Carbon tripod kit
A high-quality piece of kit, with good rigidity and steadiness in tough conditions – plus durable weatherproofing to match.
Best heavy duty tripod for birding spotting scopes if money is no object
Vortex Optics High Country II Tripod Kit
Durable and lightweight, this anodized aluminum tripod kits makes packing and transportation easy.
Best overall lightweight compact tripod kit for birding spotting scopes – top for travel
Vanguard VS-82 Tabletop Tripod
Perfectly portable, this tripod has a smooth-moving pan head for steady, expansive views.
Best overall table top tripod for birding spotting scopes
Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod with three-way head (MT055XPRO3)
A tall, strong, extra weatherproof tripod kit from one of the most respected tripod manufacturers.
Best overall heavy duty tripod for birding spotting scopes
How to decide which is the best tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
Stability, weight and ease of use should all be top priorities when purchasing a tripod for your spotting scope.
Cheap tripods are usually heavy and unstable. This compromises your image, making it shaky and unsatisfactory.
To help get the most out of your spotting scope, the best tripod for a spotting scope is definitely a high-quality model that can support considerable weight. It will also perform well in adverse conditions such as wind, rain or on uneven, sloping ground.
Main criteria for top TRIPOD kits for birding spotting scopes
Let’s get clear about the key features to consider when choosing:
- The material used
- Dimensions when packed and extended
- The strength-to-weight ratio
- The quality of the build
- How much play there is in the moving parts
- The ease of operation and versatility of the head
In-detail discussions of the different criteria can be found in this article: How to choose a tripod for a spotting scope
For the very best tripod for use with a spotting scope, all of these requirements are important.
But to weigh up which might be your overall priority, it’s worth taking into account how the tripod will be used most often. This often helps to narrow down the most important features to you.
While the reviews here cover complete tripod sets of legs and head together, if you would like to learn more about tripod heads in particular, this might be of interest: How to choose a tripod head for a spotting scope
Reviews: best tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
We’ll take a look at some of the best tripods on the market for spotting scopes, and discuss what makes them so great.
Best overall tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
Main Features of the Manfrotto 190X Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with XPRO Fluid Head
The Manfrotto 190X Tripod Kit offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Fluid head with pan and tilt motion and adjustable resistance
- Rotating bubble level to ensure alignment
- Extendable legs that also adjust outwards at different angles
- Panning handle attaches either side of the tripod head
- Kit includes quick release plate
Load Capacity 8.82 pounds
Weight 6.06 pounds
Maximum Working Height 66.9”
Minimum Working Height 3.5”
Folded length 10.7”
- Tough aluminum construction
- Fluid head’s pan and tilt ranges will fit most birders’ requirements
- Legs can be angled to suit the terrain and the height needed
- Flip-locks are convenient and easy to open and close
- Drag is pre-set on the fluid head so cannot be fine-tuned
- It would be great to have the option to add counterweight via a hook under the head
Manfrotto 190X Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with XPRO Fluid Head Overview
The Manfrotto 190X Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with XPRO Fluid Head is a great multi-functional tripod for birdwatchers and digiscoping enthusiasts alike.
It weighs just 5.9 pounds, making it easy to take with you on your next outdoor adventure.
This lightweight tripod kit is perfect for birders looking for a lightweight and compact option that can easily handle a quality spotting scope. The Manfrotto 190X can hold up to 11 pounds, making it likely to be stable for optics with objective lenses of up to 80mm.
Made from aluminum – light and tough
The tripod’s aluminum construction, while easy to carry around, is also tough in different conditions. It has the durability, stability, and height that you can confidently expect to enjoy at this price point.
The tripod extends to a height of 66.9 inches. Its quick-release legs make it easy to set up within seconds.
Each leg of the tripod can be easily adjusted to fit on any type of ground, using individual flip locks. Additionally, there’s a choice of four different angles at which you can set the legs to sit.
Handy bubble level and a light head
To make sure the spotting scope is level on any surface, there is a rotating bubble-level for clear readings.
Keeping the overall weight of the tripod down, the XPRO Fluid Head is only 1.7 pounds. Its construction (aluminum and plastic) is compact, too.
There is a quick-release plate with the standard ¼-20 head, including a lock that stops the spotting scope being accidentally ejected.
Fluid head ideal for birding or digiscoping
This fluid head is not only suitable for watching birds through a spotting scope, but also be used for shooting stills and capturing videos if you have a digiscoping set-up.
With the two fluid cartridges, the scope will enjoy the trademark Manfrotto smooth, wobble-free movements across the two different axes of movements: panoramic rotation, and tilting.
Pre-set drag resistance on the head movement
The 11-inch-long panning handle will connect to either side of the unit, depending on which hand you prefer to use. Tension settings are limited. If you want to really ultra fine tune the resistance, then it might feel too minimal.
What you’re getting as an extra for the upgrade in budget is the dual tension balancing system. This takes into account the size of the optic instrument that is attached, depending on whether the tripod holds a large spotting scope, or a pair of binoculars, for instance.
The tripod also comes with a sleek carrying case for easy transport.
One small feature that we would have liked is very simple – a hook under the tripod head on which you can hang a bag as a counterweight to boost stability.
Best value tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
Main Features of the Vanguard Alta 264AO tripod with Alta PH-31 pan head
The Vanguard Alta 264AO tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Two-way fluid pan head
- Four-section twist-lock legs, two of which have non-slip grips
- Hook under center column for counterweight
- Non-slip rubber feet
Load Capacity 11 pounds
Weight 5.1 pounds
Maximum Working Height 64”
Minimum Working Height 20.2”
Folded length 27.7”
- Lightweight pan head with friction control and a locking system
- Angles of the legs can be adjusted
- Helpful bubble level for easy alignment
- Set up can be done one-handed
- At 6 pounds it’s not the most lightweight contender
- Panning movement could be smoother
Vanguard Alta 264AO tripod with Alta PH-31 pan head Overview
If you need a sturdy tripod that can support your heavy-duty spotting scope, the Vanguard Alta 264AO is an excellent choice.
The tripod itself weighs just under 6 pounds. That disqualifies it from being the lightest contender. But here we are focusing most on value and it delivers that.
It is solid and intended to withstand maximum loads of up to 11 pounds. That makes it suitable for larger spotting scopes, for instance, with objective lenses up to 80mm.
With its legs and center column fully extended, the height is a touch under 64 inches. The tripod legs have four sections that collapse to 27.7 inches.
When folded down, the tripod can be easily stored and transported. It is not very light though.
Choose from a range of leg angles
The legs have multiple angle settings to allow the tripod to find the correct balance point on ground that is uneven or sloping. It incorporates an anti-shock ring to absorb jolts to your spotting scope and prevent image shake.
In general, the removable panhead moves smoothly. Unusually for this type of tripod head, there can be some resistance when panning, causing unwanted movement in the image.
Fast collapsing foam-clad legs
The legs are easy to deploy. Their flip locks make the tripod fast to collapse down when needed.
The padded foam cladding on the upper section of the legs make the tripod more comfortable to adjust and carry in extreme temperatures.
The individually adjustable legs provide plenty of flexibility to use on different types of terrain, while the rubber feet help to keep your equipment stable when it’s set up on uneven ground.
Overall, this tripod feels like it is holding the spotting scope securely in place. It scores well on durability and toughness. While it is not super cheap nor lightweight, it does seem built to last.
Best tripod kit for birding spotting scopes if money is no object
Main Features of the Vortex Optics Radian Carbon tripod kit
The Vortex Optics Radian Carbon tripod kit offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Carbon fiber legs and aluminum construction
- Ball head with drag resistance and three options of lock
- Four-section legs with adjustable angles
- Durable anodized finish
Materials Aluminum, carbon fiber
Load Capacity 55 pounds
Weight 6.1 pounds
Maximum Working Height 67”
Minimum Working Height 8.3”
Folded length 28”
- Carbon fiber construction
- Ball head with adjustable resistance
- Substantial height – good for straight scopes and taller birders
- Holds a hefty load in comparison to its own weight
- Folded length is still 28 inches
- While manageable, it’s not the most compact for carrying long distances
Vortex Optics Radian Carbon tripod kit Overview
The Radian tripod by Vortex is a high-quality piece of equipment. It weighs in at just over 5 pounds.
Its solid build means it handles a decent amount of weight. This tripod can support a load of up to 55 pounds, making it the perfect tool for capturing crisp, clear images.
The Radian tripod is also light in weight relative to these load capabilities. While we wouldn’t call it highly portable, the folded length of 28 inches is manageable to store and take with you on shorter hikes.
This tripod is made with an 8.3-inch minimum height. At full stretch, the Radian is a tall tripod, reaching over 67 inches.
Stable even at tallest extension
It’s at this totally extended position where tripods are at their most vulnerable to movement and flex along the sections and across the joins. While there is some flex in the carbon fiber Radian, it is impressively rigid and steady.
The legs are four-section units. It’s very easy and quick to set up and take down the Radian, due to the quarter-turn twist locks at each leg section.
Adaptable leg settings
To open out the legs to wider angles, there’s a smooth-feeling locking mechanism to release them for movement. This feature makes it adaptable to a wide range of bird watching locations and situations.
Plus there’s a pair of screws at the top of each leg that gives the ability to increase or decrease the resistance when adjusting the angle of the leg.
According to your preference for how loose the legs should be, you can make it easier or more difficult to move each of them.
Added stability with non-slip feet
The Radian comes with non-slip rubber feet to provide a solid grip on slick surfaces, and stainless steel spiked feet for extra stability in rougher terrain.
To release the tripod head, there’s a button on the side of the tripod legs, so you can switch it over quickly. All of these locking and unlocking levers have the premium feel that you would expect.
It’s Arca Swiss head mount compatible. There’s also a quick-release plate with ¼-20 thread to attach the scope easily, so you can start birding in no time once you arrive at your destination.
Lockable ball head with option to add tension
Its ball head features three adjustment knobs, making it easy to adjust the tension, panning, and locking. Via one screw, you alter the tension determining how easily the head moves.
Another knob locks the panning motion, and the final one is for locking the ball head in place. It’s smooth and simple to pan the whole 360 degrees and the head locks firmly into position when required.
With the ball head, your scope can take in any angle, move steadily with the resistance setting you prefer, and stay set in your chosen position with a rock-solid grip in windy conditions.
Under the center column there’s a detachable hook to hang counterweight for extra stability.
Has a tough and durable finish
There’s a durable anodized finish to the surfaces, adding a tough weatherproof feel. This is a crucial addition to keep carbon fiber in top condition, without any nicks or chips.
In the event that the tripod does get damaged in any way, the Vortex brand offers the ultimate in support. Their lifetime warranty means that you are always covered and can get your kit repaired or replaced.
Best lightweight compact tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
Main Features of the Vortex Optics High Country II Tripod Kit
The Vortex Optics High Country II Tripod Kit offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Pan/Tilt QR head with control handle
- Aluminum alloy legs
- Three leg sections with center column
- Carrying case
Materials carbon fiber
Load Capacity 22 pounds
Weight 4 pounds
Maximum Working Height 62.5”
Minimum Working Height 11.3″
Folded length 24.3”
- Effortless panning movement via a long lever
- Balance hook to hang additional weight and add stability
- Tripod legs splay to lower right to the ground
- Two legs feature padding for extra comfort
- Padding only on two of the legs instead of all three
- Limited range of motion compared to a ball head
Vortex Optics High Country II Tripod Kit Overview
Small, light, and compact – this tripod from Vortex really fulfills the brief. Durable and lightweight, made of anodized aluminum, it makes packing and transportation easy.
The maximum load capacity exceeds typical compact tripods, at 22 pounds. Its construction should support scopes with an objective lens size from 45mm to 60mm.
The weight of the tripod itself is 4 pounds. If you want to use it from a standing position, the High Country can be lifted to 52.3 inches.
At full extension, using the center pole, you can take it up to 61 inches. But there can be a bit of movement detectable here at high magnification.
Lowers right down to the ground
Take out the center column, splay out the legs to a wide angle, and the tripod will lower right down to the ground. If a sitting position is better for you, then the tripod has a minimum height of 15 inches.
The texture of the rubber tips on the bottom of the legs means the feet grip the ground well, adding more stability.
When setting up your tripod, it’s important to be able to do it quickly, to catch sight of the birds, but also quietly so as not to disturb the birds or any other birders. This sturdy tripod makes both of those objectives easy because its legs extend smoothly.
The legs lock into place at the desired height with quick flip levers. At the base of the legs, the rubber feet grip the ground well.
Padding is more pleasant in heat/cold
The upper portion of two of the legs is padded. As well as making it more comfortable if you are used to resting the tripod against your shoulder when on the move, the padding is more pleasant to hold in extreme temperatures.
It’s not totally clear why the padding is on two of the legs rather than all three, though.
In the middle of the three legs, a balance hook enables you to hang some additional weight from it to provide extra stability to the tripod. This can also be detached.
For example, if it’s fine weather with no wind and you are going to be hiking a long way, weight saving could be more of a priority.
Likewise, adjusting the head is also fuss-free, with effortless movement. There is a long panning lever to manoeuver the two-way quick-release panning and tilt head.
Once you get the resistance of this lever at the most comfortable tension for you, you’re good to go.
Ideal for birders looking for a pan head
If a pan head works for you, the High Country II is a great buy. The head is easy to adjust and scan the landscape if you don’t mind the slightly limited range of horizontal movement in comparison to a ball head.
There is a carry case to transport the tripod if you prefer to pack it all right down rather than carry the tripod with the scope still attached.
As with their spotting scopes, the Vortex name is a guarantee of high quality. And if this wasn’t reassuring enough, the company also offers an unconditional lifetime warranty. That said, they also have a significant price tag.
For more choices of very portable choices of tripod kit for travel, feel free to check out this guide: The best lightweight compact tripod kits (top for travel)
Best table-top tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
Main Features of the Vanguard VS-82 2-Section Table-Top Tripod with 2-Way Pan Head
The Vanguard VS-82 2-Section Table-Top Tripod with 2-Way Pan Head offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- 2-way pan head covers 360°
- Front-to-back tilt
- Angled, non-slip feet
- Solid aluminum build
Load Capacity 5.5 pounds
Weight 13.8 ounces – less than 1 pound
Maximum Working Height 9.8”
Minimum Working Height 7.5”
Folded length 9”
- Panning lever is long enough for good control
- Two-way pan/tilt movement suits some birders more than a ball head
- Extendable center pole
- Legs splay, so can get very low
- Rubber feet grip surfaces well
- Only a screw-on fitting, no quick release
- Limited to just under 10 inches of height
Vanguard VS-82 2-Section Table-Top Tripod with 2-Way Pan Head Overview
The Vanguard VX 82 tabletop tripod is compact enough to fit in a generous sized pocket (possibly not your skinny jeans though!). Weighing less than a pound, it is highly portable.
The sleek and lightweight design makes this tripod perfect for hiking trips. It might not hold much weight to cope with a large spotting scope.
At its size though, it is sturdy enough to keep your scope stable. The fact that it is lightweight and compact makes it a great companion for that hiking trip.
Folds down to nine inches
Assuming you don’t need much extra height, this could suit your needs. The total extended height is around ten inches. Folded down, the tripod is not much smaller, at nine inches.
Angled, non-slip feet are helpful. If you were using the tripod indoors on a kitchen countertop or table, for instance, the rubber feet will grip well.
This reduces the need to worry about accidentally shifting your precious scope sideways and sending vibrations through the image or worse, knocking the whole device over or off the tabletop.
Added to this, there is little play in the moving parts. The legs splay broadly, flattening as much as you need. Meanwhile, the center pole also extends.
Smooth panning with a long lever
The pan head moves across the horizontal and vertical axis. Despite it being a compact tripod, the panning lever is of a sufficient length to get a good hold and to allow you to pan smoothly.
If you’re happy with a two-way head instead of the full three-way motion, then this could suit. You’re also limited to a screw-on fitting instead of a quick-release shoe.
Impressive load capacity
With the Vanguard VS82 as a stable base, you can be confident of a steady picture, even with a fairly weighty spotting scope. The maximum load weight is five and a half pounds.
One of the best things about this tripod, apart from its solid aluminum build, is that it will not break the bank. Plus it benefits from a two-year warranty.
There are more potential good choices for tabletop tripods that offer lightness, stability and portability, and we suggest some here: The best table-top tripods (great for travel or backyard birding!)
Best overall heavy duty tripod for birding spotting scopes
Main Features of the Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod with three-way head
The Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Three-way pan and tilt head
- Rapid one-finger assembly center column
- Quick power leg locks
- Rotating bubble level
Load Capacity 19.8 pounds
Weight 5.5 pounds
Maximum Working Height 66.9”
Minimum Working Height 3.5”
Folded length 24”
- Impressively high payload and rigidity
- Power locks add stability to the legs
- Legs can be set to four different angles
- Quick connection and easy to switch accessories
- A bit weighty at 5 pounds – though there are also carbon fiber options in this range
- Three-section legs won’t fold as small as four to five-section legs
Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod (MT055XPRO3) Overview
Apparently, three is the magic number for optimum stability and strength. Hence the three sections to each of the legs of the 055.
We’ll take Manfrotto’s word for it in this case because we’re after an extra sturdy tripod prioritizing strength over size. Though we are going to note that they do make plenty of really decent but more packable four- and five-section tripods too!
Hefty maximum payload
The maximum load capacity of the Manfrotto 055 is 15.4 pounds.
Maximum height is 70.3 inches, with the center column extended. If the center column is down, the height reduces to 55.9 inches.
At the minimum, the height is 3.9 inches. Folded down, the 005 is just under 26 inches long.
Quick release catches make it easy to extend the legs of your tripod. These lock the legs securely but are a cinch to use with one hand – great for securely holding onto other kit at the same time.
Aluminum legs feature cold-water cladding
If you are a frequent cold weather birder, you will recall how cold metal tripod legs can get. A great feature is the addition of foam cladding on two legs, making them more comfortable to handle.
The majority of this tripod is aluminum, so it weighs 5 pounds. It’s not one that you are going to want to be hiking a long way with.
If you are looking to save weight, they also produce a carbon fiber version. It could be worth raising the budget for this advantage.
(Manfrotto does also have a great choice of tripods suitable for taking a longer distance, but it’s not as sturdy as the comparatively tank-like models in this article!)
A reliable and well-weatherproofed option
Weatherproofing is impressive. Its corrosion-resistant finish looks sleek and durable. The non-aluminum parts such as threads are made of good quality stainless steel so rust won’t be an issue.
Added to this, Manfrotto’s reputation for reliability and quality, and you’ll be making good use of this rock-solid tripod for years to come.
For more options in the heavy-duty tripod category, we have an article that may be useful to you on the heavy
Best birding tripod kits for birding spotting scopes: summary and next steps
If you’re looking for the very best tripod money to use with your spotting scope, you came to the right place! Any of the tripods on our list would be a great choice – depending on what your main priorities are.
To recap on choosing tripod kits for birding spotting scopes in general, this information may help: How to choose a tripod for a spotting scope
Each of the tripods offers features that are sure to make bird watching and nature observation easier and more enjoyable. These features include excellent stability, adjustability and smooth movement.
All of which make the tripods perfect for long hours of bird watching.
This level of tripod will serve you well for bird watching with a spotting scope because they are all made with high-quality materials and construction, so you can be sure that your investment will last for years. So, which one will you choose?
- 1 Quick comparison: best tripod kits for birding spotting scopes
- 1.1 Manfrotto 190X Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with XPRO Fluid Head
- 1.2 Vanguard Alta 264AO tripod with Alta PH-31 pan head
- 1.3 Vortex Optics Radian Carbon tripod kit
- 1.4 Vortex Optics High Country II Tripod Kit
- 1.5 Vanguard VS-82 Tabletop Tripod
- 1.6 Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod with three-way head (MT055XPRO3)
- 2 How to decide which is the best tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
- 3 Reviews: best tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
- 4 Best overall tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
- 4.1 Main Features of the Manfrotto 190X Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with XPRO Fluid Head
- 4.2 Specifications
- 4.3 Pros
- 4.4 Cons
- 4.5 Manfrotto 190X Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with XPRO Fluid Head Overview
- 5 Best value tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
- 6 Best tripod kit for birding spotting scopes if money is no object
- 6.1 Main Features of the Vortex Optics Radian Carbon tripod kit
- 6.2 Specifications
- 6.3 Pros
- 6.4 Cons
- 6.5 Vortex Optics Radian Carbon tripod kit Overview
- 7 Best lightweight compact tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
- 8 Best table-top tripod kit for birding spotting scopes
- 9 Best overall heavy duty tripod for birding spotting scopes
- 9.1 Main Features of the Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod with three-way head
- 9.2 Specifications
- 9.3 Pros
- 9.4 Cons
- 9.5 Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod (MT055XPRO3) Overview
- 10 Best birding tripod kits for birding spotting scopes: summary and next steps